Being a self-managing landlord is TOUGH. As an investor of eight properties and a self-manager of 12 including four for family, I am here to tell you that doing it yourself can be daunting. Not only from a management standpoint but also from finding the resources needed to manage said properties.
Since I became a landlord in August of 2012, I have had so many struggles and made many mistakes all in the name of overcoming these struggles. After four years of being a landlord, I am of the opinion that one of the most important parts of screening tenants is the background and credit check. However, that is honestly the part that I struggled the most in during my early days of being a landlord and it is what took me the longest to overcome.
Unlike building a strong lease or learning how to manage your tenants, running a background check is all based on your ability and access to 21st century tools as a reasonable price. Unless you’re a genius programmer, or a great hacker these are resources you can’t create yourself
I honestly struggle with this for many years.
For my very first tenants I didn’t even run a background checks on anyone with Clearances
My assumption was if they had a clearance they were clean. So our first military tenants we didn’t even run a background. These were the same tenant that broke our lease 3 months into a 18 month lease to buy a house. Luckily that was all they did.
Allowing Tenants to Produce their Own Credit Reports–
The next bad decision, I allowed was people to produce their own Credit Report checks. Can anyone say, Photoshop? We got lucky. These tenants moved out 3 months early with 10 days notice. They left our house discussed and had run into the garage door but they still got $7 back. So while emotionally painful we got out
Than I tried Expensive Buildium
After two tenants and two bad experiences I quickly realized that this was a warning call and I needed to come up with a better system so I found Buildium. While it was expensive at $15/$25 a month I figured it was the cost of doing business. Over the two years I used them they doubled in price to $45 a month and for a small time landlord almost $600 a year just for the right to run a background/credit check was crippling.
During this time I have worked for two great organizations in various capabilities in the Real Estate field. So I have learned first hand how to manage large Real Estate portfolios using Yardi and other customize systems. The issue I ran in was finding a tool for the small landlord that was affordable. As not running a background/credit check is unacceptable but spending $500 a year for the privilege of being able to run the check is unaffordable.
As a landlord I do not charge my tenants an application fee but I do require them to cover the background/credit check. I knew there was wiggle room to up to $50 per person as I have seen many companies and property management firms charge this amount. So my goal was to find a program that offered everything I needed as a landlord but the charge of a background and credit that was passed on to the tenant covered everything.
As an always learning landlord I am a HUGE believer in trying new things and never saying never. During one of these trial periods I stubbled onto COZY and a made a huge break through in my ability to manage my properties. The reason is COZY. COZY has it all, they do the marketing, application, background/credit check, even rent collection.
The awesome thing is Cozy did everything that Builidum did only there was no monthly fee for the landlord. It was all in the charge that can the tenants paid. There is no other charges to the landlord for using all the amazing features. The only negative thing about cozy is it has so much AWESOME ness that it can take a few minutes to figure it all out.
Since it can seem a little overwhelming due to all the awesomeness!
I put together this ULTIMATE GUIDE TO COZY to save you a few minutes and teach you great tricks that I have learned while working with cozy.
Learn How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Screening Your Tenants
This 37 page guide written by an experienced (and JADED) landlord walks you through everything you need (or wished) you knew about Cozy! The one and only tool you ever to screen your tenants.
Ready to get started? Head on over to Cozy and set up your account!!
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Note from the Author: Buildium is an amazing program for someone that wants a management system. Not only does it do the background/credit check, application and collect tenant funds. It also does the accounting, allows maintenance repair requests. I would compare it to Yardi or Cozy + Quicken + Maintenance management system. So for larger landlords this system is INVALUABLE and a great asset. The point of this article is not that builidum isn’t amazing. It is to expensive of a tool for something that the average landlord does not need in my opinion3
I want to give my tenants a good list of things to do to get ready for there exit walkthrough and ensure they get there deposit back 30 days in advance. Do you have one?
Elizabeth Bennett Colegrove says
I do not have a list. You can find some GREAT checklists on ezlandlordforums. If you plan on buying the checklist you might be interested in the FREE webinar on May 11th with Ezlandlordforums. The free confirmation registration includes a 15% off coupon.
Great article and guide Elizabeth! I’ve sent some landlord’s from discussion boards to come check it out. I’m such a fan of Cozy I did my own review at my blog. Your guide is a great supplement to my article. Thanks for taking the time to create an excellent guide and sharing it.
Domenick | http://www.AccidentalRental.com
Elizabeth Bennett Colegrove says
Thanks!! I am so happy you enjoyed it. I really appreciate you linking to it! Your the best!!
Just wanted you to know how helpful all of your posts have been for us! We’re getting ready to lease out our home by ourselves for the first time, and I have been popping over regularly for info! You are the best! Miss you!
Elizabeth Bennett Colegrove says
So happy it has been so helpful!! Good luck! Let me know if I can help!!
Do you get their social security number or just the DL #? I’m in the process of listing a rental myself for the first time and on your Facebook group some members have said it’s good to have the SS#.
Your website and Facebook group are SO helpful!